At some point in the last two or three years, without my really noticing it, the furry fandom went from being the largest “safe place” I ever belonged to in my life, for the longest period of time, to being a place where I don’t belong at all.
“Without my noticing” isn’t quite accurate, I suppose: I’ve felt “off” for at least two years, likely longer, but still felt like I belonged to some degree. It was still a refuge, it was still where I could be my truest self. I knew my place within it was shifting, but I didn’t notice when the feeling of “belonging” went away completely until yesterday.
I don’t say this with sadness or any sort of despair, I think I’ve definitely felt those things over the past couple of years in regards to my place in these communities, but now that the realization hits me again and with more finality, it’s more of a “I guess this happened, and it’s just how it is, but I’m glad for what I had when I had it”. There is no doubt now though –what I had is gone, and has been a long time, I just tried to pretend it still existed.
Last week, when I made that Twitter follow list and just kinda lurked on the feeds of so many fandom acquaintances, I realized I am 100% not one of them anymore. I could go on and on as to the reasons why, but it would be boring and kinda pointless. It’s just what it is. As more of the stuff I see on Twitter moves to FA, I’ve had to accept it’s not a “Twitter thing”. It’s a fandom thing. It’s changed –I’ve changed. It just doesn’t give me that feeling anymore. I no longer feel “these are my people”; rather, I feel like an impostor among them, perhaps likely to be cast out if I spoke my mind on certain issues.
“Safe places of belonging” have been few in my life, and none can compare to the scope of the furry community. I remember the first such place very well: twice, once when I was 9 or 10 and again when I was 12 or so years old, my parents made it so I could attend the Escuela de Dibujo Garaycochea.
This was an independent art school in Buenos Aires, not very big at all –but the building it was housed in, was. It was an ancient old laboratory building, spacious and full of eerie echoes when you walked. It had two floors dedicated to the school, in an open-plan sort of way. You could see the lower floor from the balcony. Animation classes were held upstairs, while painting, caricaturing, cartooning and other classes were held downstairs. Downstairs is also where the cafeteria was, and a room to watch movies. By the staircase, there was a gigantic (as big as a person) framed photo of Pablo Picasso.
The school taught all ages, from six (or maybe eight) years old to adults, and there was a strong feeling that we were all equal and united in our passion, and we were all taken seriously by one another and our teachers, no matter how young.
Here, I studied cartooning and animation. What I really got out of the school though, was a tremendous sense of belonging. To a child who was always an outcast, a place where there were other kids my age for whom drawing was their reason for being, and where adults took your potential as an artist serious and supported you with the same love and enthusiasm parents would provide, was beyond priceless. It was the first time I felt surrounded by peers who understood me.
Eventually, the school had to move. It moved to a modern, much smaller place. I don’t know why but this ruined it all for me. It was as though the building had a magic to it –after the move, I could not stay. I think I missed the original building so much, that my heartache was a distraction. I did try to attend the classes and just could not get into the swing of things again.
Later, I found a small art atelier led by a single teacher near my house. This would become my next refuge for about a year, and I would feel similarly as I did at the first school. I loved it.
My next “place of belonging” was a single person: my first best friend, Gisela. She and I were friends until I left Argentina. Still –one person does not a “place of belonging” truly make. Rather, we were together in our isolation, in feeling like we belonged nowhere. We both longed for a place where we wouldn’t feel as we did.
It was during the first year of our friendship that we went to see Hercules in theaters together. At the time, I’d firmly locked into the idea of someday living in the USA as my ultimate place where I could belong, be myself, be understood, have friends (spoiler: all of these things did come true here –sometimes the grass is greener on the other side).
Young Hercules’ both hopeful and heartrending “Go The Distance” gripped my heart completely. It became my cringy inward anthem in my own quest to find where I belonged.
Once I came to the USA, I never again felt as completely out of place as I did in Argentina. But it’s a far cry between that, and the feeling of being surrounded by a support network of understanding peers and friends.
I would hop from circle of friends to circle of friends, from anime communities to other art schools and clubs –most of these things would be short-lived, and even the longest-lived one, an anime club I still belong to in some fashion, gave a “finite” feeling of belonging.
Nothing could ever compare to the effect the furry fandom had in my life in this regard, and I doubt if anything will ever come close.
I joined FA (and soon after, officially became a furry) because furry friends from deviantART, particularly Tavi and Ozzie, were showing me tremendous kindness at one of the lowest points in my life. Through them, I discovered a friendly and welcoming community, one that really wanted me among them. I made many friends very quickly and still count some of them as my closest friends almost ten years later.
Thing is, even some of those friends, like me, feel out of place in the fandom nowadays. And to be honest… a big factor in me not attending Megaplex this year, is that feeling. The feeling of no longer fitting in. Whether I ever attend another con will depend on how I manage (or not) to sort out that feeling.
Mind you, it’s not like I’m making some “I’m no longer a furry!! I hate the fandom, I’m weaving!1” 😩😩😩 announcement. Because those are so stupid and attention-whorey (and that’s rich coming from me! lol.) That is not what this is. I love the fandom. It’s just that at some point, my feeling of complete, utter isolation, from before I was a furry, returned. I’m not sure when that happened, I just know I won’t be able to fill that void with furry anymore.
But that’s okay. I think it’s highly unlikely that another “place of belonging” won’t find its way to me eventually. Something will come. Until then, I’ll continue to embrace my solitude. It got me through a lot in the past, after all.
Also, for what it’s worth, this is nothing that one or a few friendly/concerned messages can “fix” —please don’t try. This is something much bigger, that a few individual people cannot fix for me and should not attempt to fix. Eventually, I’ll run into a place or community that feels like home again –this one, like most things in life, ran its course, for me (and for many others, from what I see).
But it was a good run. 🙂 I’m so happy for all the years that it gave me that feeling of belonging. I’m looking forward to what comes next.